“Over 1000 touch points for feedback”

SolidWorks Corps claims to have “over one thousand touch points for feedback” that allow them to find areas that need improvement with their applications.  Without getting into detail about the effectiveness of their use of these touch points, I’m simply pointing out where they do look.  First, note that the Product Definition Group oversees much of this activity and is staffed worldwide.

  • They conduct direct customer visits.  My company was lined up for such a visit a couple years ago, but due to scheduling, I had to cancel on the SolidWorks representative at the last-minute.
  • They are conducting an increasing number of user surveys (check the SolidWorks Forum and sometimes your email too).
  • There are field people who work through the VARs.
  • Technical support provides invaluable information.
  • They gain information from meeting with User Groups.
  • SolidWorks World provides significant information, such as the top 10 enhancement requests list, voted upon by attendees.
  • They also peruse the SolidWorks and CAD forums.  It’s my understanding that they also hang out at other popular independent CAD forums.

Where is the most effective place to request a change or notify SolidWorks Corp about issues with their software?  Well, I think that depends.  Submitting ERs might be the most effective method, actually.

Thoroughly discussing problems and difficulties in the SolidWorks Forum may also afford more attention.  Bugging VARs about software bugs is fairly effective in my experience (some have had opposite experiences).  Of all the bugs I’ve reported via my VAR, none remain.

Another way to give feedback is to comment on the various SolidWorks related blogs.  Get your favorate blogger to talk about the issue indepth.  Depending on the topic, bloggers do seem to have a little more pull than the average bear.  Unfortunately, I know only one bear that uses SolidWorks (and when her system crashes, it is usually a result of her bashing it about about cabin).

Leveraging the Online Community (Pontiac?)

*Edits to this article are in this color* 

I’m noticing that many companies are starting to get-it when it comes to leveraging online communities.  SolidWorksCorp has been ahead of the game, which is working to their advantage.  This isn’t going unnoticed by others in the 3D CAD industry.   Of course, nor is the idea of leveraging online communities unique to 3D CAD companies. 

PTC recently sent out an email with a survey regarding their plans to improve their presence within the online communities.  Sure, they already have user and corporate blogs, forums and such.  What are they missing?  Well, not being involved with PTC, I’m not going to guess.  Nor am I going to fill out their survey.

What made me think about this is something that happened which is almost completely unrelated to 3D CAD.  My wife and I were recently profiled in G8 version Pontiac Performance.  This is a magazine that is sent out to owners of Pontiac vehicles.  I’m not sure why I, as an owner of an awesome new 2009 G8 GT, would need a magazine full of articles pointing out the greatness of Pontiac cars.  I already get-it.  That’s why I bought the car!  (Maybe they are hoping I will buy another model right away?)  Anyway, the magazine does have its use, and I’m getting to the point soon.  First, if you want to see my profile article, I believe the magazine is carried by Pontiac dealerships.  If you feel so inclined, go in to a dealership and ask to see if they have copies of the G8 version Pontiac Performance Spring 2009 edition.  (It has to be the G8 version of the magazine since it appears they publish different versions of the magazine based on what car you are interested in or already own.) The article is on pages 12 and 13 (pages vary based on the version of the magazine, but its somewhere between page 9 and 14 in most G8 versions).  Then, while you are there, check out the G8.  I’m actually not being sarcastic when I suggest this.

Anyway, back to the point.  In the magazine is another article called Car Camaraderie about how online forums are bringing Pontiac drivers together.  They did a whole article about online resources being utilized by Pontiac owners.  As far as I know, none of these resources are directly related to GM.  This move by Pontiac to promote the online community reminded me of the efforts that SolidWorks has already undertaken.   The writer of the Pontiac article understands the Pontiac’s online community well enough to mention the most popular sites for each of their models.  This is just one article in one magazine that doesn’t have public distribution.  It’s a start for them, though.  Sure, OnStar has been online based for awhile now, but that is a paid service.  The act of actually profiling users on several of the forums (even mentioning their user names) is something that is not that common yet.  Like many other old-school companies, they are starting to understand the Information Age, finally.  

SolidWork Corp isn’t a vanguard in how they leverage the online communities, but they are ahead of the curve…with other companies close on their heels.

Brave new world (online)

SolidWorks Corp is doing something well.  They are taking advantage of current and relavent networking technologies, such as Twitter (search #SolidWorks), to promote the software and its users.   In fact, SolidWorks Corp has a substantial online presence.  Some of this is their own doing, some of it by users stepping forward on their own.  There are a multitude of outlets for information and support.  There are forums, blogs, resource sites, networking sites (such as Linkedin and Facebook) .

Even with all this, there are still other interactive online resources.  Who’s checked out the SolidWorks Wikipedia.org article?  I recently made a minor edit to that article.  It can certainly benefit from many more edits.  Or, who’s checked out or contributed to SolidMentor’s Solidwiki?  This is on Ben’s site.  He also has the SolidJott SolidWorks add-in, which is growing rapidly in popularity.  What are your favorite online interactive sites?

SolidWorks Drawings ER Blitz – SW Drawing Forum

There’s something going on over at the SolidWorks Drawings Discussion Forum.  There has been an on-going project consisting of users working together to form a list of requests to improve SolidWorks’ drawing functionality.  It all started out with a posted message that was simple, yet poignant by user RYAN W.

When is solidworks ever going to focus on drawings for a new release? Of all the parts in SW I think it needs the most improvement. When ever I find a bug or have a problem in SW it usually is in drawings. I think it would be great to have a new release focus on this area.

From there, the discussion evolved.  Users started going into what they would like to see added to SolidWorks’ drawing functionality.  Others brought up bugs they found.  Somewhere in the discussion, Dwight Livingston took the baton.  He compiled list of eighteen improvements from everyone’s comments.  It included requests such “Create option to attach the ASME symbol for ALL AROUND to the bend of a leader”, “Change SW tables to have basic spreadsheet functions, without MS Excel”, “Create option to add a new centermark to an existing centermark group”, and “Create feature to embed custom symbols in drawing files”, just to name a few. 

This list has received considerable enthusiasm and has taken on a life of its own; it grew in scope and size in a second thread titled What Drawing Functionality Does SolidWorks Need to Improve?.  Finally, Mr. Livingston formalized the discussion under the thread SolidWorks Drawings ER Blitz, with the intent to finish compiling the list of requests by Sept 17, 2008.  By now, the list is over 40 individual items in about 15 categories.  Some of the categories are DRAWING EXPORT, DIMENSION, HOLE CALLOUTS, GD&T, and SYMBOLS.

Now, unofficially, I can say that SolidWorks Corp is aware of this list.  It is my impression that it will not be ignored.  That is not to say that every item will be dutifully explored and implemented right away.  There are many factors that go into decisions as to which improvements to work on first and when to implement them.  At the very least, SolidWorks Corp is listening.

Please check out the current list.  If so inclined, please feel free to voice your own thoughts about items on this list and mention any new items that need to be added.  What’s been bugging you?  What bugs need fixing? Where does SolidWorks not allow you to detail something per ASME or ISO standards without some heinous workaround?  Where is SolidWorks drawing functionality still lacking?  What functionality can be added to increase efficiency?